A recent statement issued by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) confirms that the paper giant Asia Pacific Resources International (APRIL) is officially banned from using the FSC trademark to market its pulp and paper products. This decision follows a formal complaint submitted by Greenpeace, WWF Indonesia and Rainforest Action Network that APRIL was in violation of its Policy of Association. The joint-NGO complaint to the FSC documents continued large-scale deforestation activities, pervasive social conflicts and violations of human rights in Indonesia by APRIL and other companies within the RGE group.

In order to avoid any inquiry, last June, APRIL asked its certification bodies to withdraw all of its chain-of-custody FSC certificates.

APRIL is part of the RGE (Royal Golden Eagle) group, owned by the notorious deforestation tycoon Mr Sukanto Tanoto, whose assets are estimated to be worth around US$12 billion.

The FSC Policy for Association is in place to ensure that the FSC only associates with companies committed to fundamental principles of responsible forest management. It requires that a company holding FSC chain-of-custody certificates not be involved in the conversion of High Conservation Value forest and must not have converted an area of forest covering more than 10,000 ha within the past five years.

“The FSC has acted rapidly to disassociate its brand from the activities of APRIL and its affiliated companies,” said Aditya Bayunanda from WWF Indonesia. “However, APRIL still holds chain of custody certificates granted through the industry-led PEFC forest certification scheme. If the PEFC had any teeth, it would follow the lead of the FSC and distance itself from all RGE group companies.”

The latest statement by the FSC not only means that APRIL is no longer allowed to apply for any sort of FSC certification, but that all other companies belonging to Tanoto’s pulp and paper empire are barred from obtaining FSC chain-of-custody certificates. These include three leading global specialty cellulose companies – Sateri International (China), Bahia Speciality Cellulose (Brazil) and Toba Pulp Lestari (Indonesia).– that manufacture ingredients used in everyday products ranging from textiles, cigarette filters, baby wipes and eyeglass frames to cosmetics, ice cream, pharmaceuticals and tyres.

“Whilst more and more companies are cutting their ties with deforestation, Sukanto Tanoto’s empire continues to trash rainforests across Sumatra and Borneo,” said Zulfalmi from Greenpeace Southeast Asia. “In 2012, APRIL’s suppliers alone planned to clear around 60,000 hectares of rainforest, making Tanoto the largest driver of deforestation for pulp in Indonesia, if not the world.”

“This move is a clear signal to paper and textile buyers as well as the broader corporate community that APRIL and Sukanto Tanoto’s other holdings are rogue companies,” added Christy Tennery of Rainforest Action Network. “FSC’s decision, and the shocking cases of land conflict and rainforest conversion raised in our complaint, demonstrates that doing business with RGE companies poses significant risk to customer brands and investors.”

WWF, Greenpeace and RAN are calling on APRIL and the RGE group to commit to adopting and implementing a zero deforestation policy that ends deforestation, expansion on carbon-rich peatlands, violations of human and labor rights and illegal practices and that includes immediately stopping all natural forest and peatland conversion, eliminating the use of mixed tropical hardwoods, restoring/compensating legacy forest and peatland loss and resolving and remedying conflicts and human rights violations.